With dramatically increasing demand for bandwidth among user populations, many in the hospitality industry are finding the right data communications solution is the Passive Optical LAN (POL). Essentially composed of point-to-multipoint fiber conducted through unpowered splitters, POLs are telecommunications networks that enable simultaneous multiple services such as data, VOIP, video, building security and management services and wireless devices. Also, compared to conventional copper-structured cabling, POLs offer significant “green” incentives, a much smaller cabling footprint, and a future-proof architecture that can grow with bandwidth demand.
Many users of fiber optic cable services such as Verizon’s FIOS™ in their homes or businesses are, perhaps unknowingly, quite familiar with the basic benefits of the POL. Because these cable TV providers have fiber optic backbones that can travel great distances without a degradation of signal (which occurs with copper-based cable), they can deliver higher bandwidth services such as high-definition TV, high-speed Internet, and digital telephone.
Many compare POL technology (also referred to as a Passive Optical Network, or PON) to a FIOS™-type architecture routed throughout a building or campus, rather than a residential neighborhood. The single-mode fiber network backbone is connected to splitters, each of which will provide fiber to 32 “customers.” In total, a single POL can be connected to hundreds or even thousands of individual users, providing them with a multitude of telecommunications applications.
Industry suppliers project that in the not-too-distant future between 10% and 30% of population of conventional LAN architecture will move toward POL. The typical POL network will serve 200-plus users.
Breaking down the technical and economic advantages
Enterprise Connectivity Products at OCC names a few of the performance benefits of POL.
Reliability and future-proofing. Fiber offers high-performance bandwidth over much greater distances than copper-based infrastructures.
CapEx and OpEx advantages. POL is significantly less costly than copper-based LANs. Investments in wiring closets and associated electronics and are eliminated as well as climate control costs. Installation costs are reduced because the fiber cables are less expensive and easier to install. POL flattens the LAN by reducing the number of switches and routers on a network by connecting devices to a single switch rather than separate switches. Reaching multiple users with each fiber gives POL flexibility not present when compared to copper-based LANs.
Addresses green initiatives & saves on costs. There is no electric power requirement for electronics between the OLT and users. The need for a telecommunications room, or wiring closet, is replaced with zone enclosures, eliminating the need for a closet cooling system while reducing power consumption.
Security. POLs are also considerably more secure than legacy Ethernet networks. They are free from cross talk and interference. Conventional Ethernet LANs emit electromagnetic signals that can be intercepted. POLs, which contain all optical fiber, do not. They are non-flammable and require no EMI or FRI shielding. Plus, the POL supports security mechanisms such as AES (advanced encryption standard) 128-bit encryption.
Ease of installation. Generally speaking, POLs are easier to installed because they are simpler consisting mainly of fiber optics passing through splitters that deliver services to the user faceplates (to which their equipment is attached). Also, pathway space requirements, such as the headspace over drop ceilings, are reduced significantly.
A typical POL “zone” configuration is composed of an MDF (main distribution frame) that runs fiber to a zone distribution enclosure that is typically mounted in the ceiling. The zone distribution enclosure contains splitter cassettes (1 to 32 splitters) from which fibers are run to the user via ONT (optical network terminal). A copper patch cord connects the ONT to the user’s Ethernet NIC (network interface card).